International Day for Maternal Rights - let's take action

International Maternal Health Day 2015


This year is only the second time that the International Day for Maternal Health and Rights (#IntlMHDay) has been celebrated.  We at Women and Children First are surprised that this is such a new initiative given that, even in 2015, a woman dies in pregnancy or childbirth every two minutes.

There is an urgent need to increase global action on maternal health and rights.  Reproductive rights are at the cornerstone of maternal health, but these rights are frequently abused in many different ways. Pregnancy, childbirth and HIV are the leading causes of death for girls and women of reproductive age and it is not just poverty or poor service provision that are to blame.  Women are frequently subjected to disrespect and abuse by health providers during pregnancy and childbirth and reproductive rights are often neglected by governments and policy makers. 

We are therefore joining with the maternal health community to call on governments, international institutions and other civil society organisations to recognise 11 April as the International Day of Maternal Health and Rights.  We call on everyone to take action to establish, promote and protect maternal health and rights and ensure a comprehensive, inclusive and rights based approach to maternal health and rights.

We are proud that Women and Children First’s programmes contribute to this aim.  Through our projects women become more aware of their rights and are empowered to demand improved care.  Working together in groups, women gain confidence to express their health needs and wishes with their family, their community, health care providers and local decision makers.  You can help them do this by making a donation to our work. Every £5 you give can improve a mother's chance of surviving pregnancy and childbirth.

More mothers and babies receive good care in Malawi

We are delighted that the Comic Relief funded project that we ran in the Ntcheu district of Malawi between 2010 and 2015 has proved highly effective in improving maternal, newborn and child health.

In collaboration with the Ministry of Health’s Perinatal Care Project, we ran 144 women’s groups that reached 80,000 people and improved the provision of healthcare in 14 health centres.

In the groups, women learnt how to keep themselves and their babies safe – and passed that information onto other women. Together they devised and delivered strategies which improved maternal and child health, such as creating drama groups to share health information, improving sanitation and village hygiene, establishing village savings and loans associations, developing kitchen gardens to improve nutrition and setting up bylaws to discourage early marriages.


Big Lottery Fund to save more mothers and babies in Malawi

We are delighted that we will be starting a new project in the Nkhotakota District, central Malawi, on 1 April thanks to a grant of £499,681 from the Big Lottery Fund.

Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world. Over 50% of the population live on less than $1 day and the poor economy results in poor education - and even poorer healthcare systems.

Most Malawians don’t have access to the health care that they need and the health care that is available is often of poor quality. This leaves them compromised by a lack of professional and medical resources.

The statistics are shocking – only 2% of Malawi government funding is allocated to maternal and newborn health and every year thousands of women die as a result of not having a skilled birth assistant with them during labour. Despite improvement in recent years, for every 510 mothers still die for every 100,000 births.

A woman in Malawi stands a one in 26 chance of dying during pregnancy and childbirth during her lifetime.

This is where we come in. Working closely with our partner the Maikhanda Trust, and with the three years of financial support that this grant affords us, we will improve maternal and newborn health and reduce deaths through setting up women’s groups and improving health services.


Here's a fabulous way for you to support our work

Women and Children First gets £5 from the sale of every stylish and practical Storksak Noa Yellow baby changing bag bought online.

Emily Bradury from Storksak says “We share Women and Children First’s ambition to prevent mothers and babies from dying during pregnancy, childbirth or in the first few days and months of life.

At Storksak we know how lucky we are here in the Western world to have good quality health information - we have health visitors, doctors, nurses, family and friends to turn to for help when times get difficult. Imagine how terrifying life would be if you were living in poverty, lacking the basic information and knowledge to do the right things to keep yourself and your baby alive, safe and well.

“That is why we have chosen to donate to Women and Children First by giving a percentage of the sales of our new spring / summer 2015 Noa Yellow baby changing bag to support your work.”

£5 pays for one woman in a developing county to attend one of our women’s groups for a year where she can receive good quality health information and care from properly qualified professionals. Our work improves a mother’s chance of surviving pregnancy by up to 45%.


Comic Relief funds our life-saving work in Ethiopia

We’re thrilled to announce that Comic Relief have granted us funds to take our life-saving work to the Malga Woreda (district) in southern Ethiopia, in a new project that starts on 1 April 2015.

Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world – ranked 173 out of 186 countries in the 2013 Human Development Report. Life expectancy is estimated at a frighteningly low 57 years.

Women and children suffer a great deal at the hands of the poor economy. Only 10% of births are attended by a skilled professional - and the healthcare systems aren't in place to support women to deliver their babies in a safe and hygienic environment.

Alongside the poor health services, distance from facilities and a myriad of traditional beliefs and practices prevent women from actively seeking appropriate care. For example, the tradition that the placenta has to be buried near the family home prevents women wanting to give birth in a health facility, where they know that the placenta will be burned.